for the Creatives, Showcasing other Creatives

The top 6 planners & systems for creatives to tackle their dreams

We all need a new planner to try every now and again, right? Here are some of the top planners for creatives in my mind: My favorites that I’ve tried, plan to try, or that I think are a super cool system even if they don’t work for me.

(Disclaimer-y thingie: Most of these are not affiliate links, it goes directly to the small business I’m recommending just because they have a super cool thing I gotta geek out about with you. If there’s a specific option on Amazon I love, I do use an affiliate link and will receive a small portion of sales made through that link.)

1. The Makers Yearbook

This is the one I’m excited about digging into next year!

Me holding a box saying the "Maker's Yearbook" on it. I'm sitting next to a christmas tree, but don't be fooled, it's not an early christmas present. I just decorated early :)

It includes strategizing for the year, social media and sales tracker, goal setting and review areas, and probably about ten other things I didn’t mention here. If you’re a creative, you should take a look. (Oh, and I share some pics of the inside in this blogpost, too.)

2. The simple & ginormous deskpad weekly planner

(That’s an affiliate link, I may receive a portion of sales thru that link). And here’s another option if you like the wooden look instead of the bold designs.

View of weekly planner with various tasks and appointments scribbled across. It's sitting on a desk, with coffee and roses in view as well.
pic from Amazon listing. This is an affiliate link and I may receive a portion of sales from purchases thru this link

Sometimes simple is effective without all the fluff. This was my go-to as I was juggling dayjob, publishing I Know You Like a Murder, plus regular home and family to-do’s. I didn’t need some complex system, I just needed a quick view to keep each piece moving in small ways. It took up half my desk and I had an area to list what I planned for each piece of my life.

3. The Finish calendar by Jon Acuff, for when the ginormous deskpad isn’t ginormous enough

View of large markerboard yearly planner propped up on an office desk. At the top it says "FINISH 2022".
Pic from sale listing at link above.

You got big plans for the year, and now you can track it all in one view. It comes in paper or markerboard option with both portrait and landscape views, and super reasonably priced.

4. The home planner, money planner, and student planner

Because creatives gotta stay on top of other stuff too.

Pic collage of various home planners and journals
Pic from sale listing at link above. This is a referral link where you’ll receive $5 off your purchase!

This year I used the home planner from Passionate Penny Pincher. (The link is a referral link where you’ll get a $5 off coupon, and I’ll get one too!). She also has a student planner and this money planner (this is an Amazon affiliate link, I may receive a portion of sales).

5. The Hero’s journal, for the less structured, more go-with-the-flow adventurer

To document all your quests for future generations, or, okay, just to keep track of it yourself 🙂

A grey hero's journal with gold embossing and an elastic band around.
Pic from sale listing at link above.

If all the dates and structure of a typical planner just boxes your dreamer spirit in too much, this may be the solution for you. Put on your (metaphorical or literal) hero hat and document your hero’s journey because you’re the main character of your own story. Includes both print and digital option. It’s an undated journal with a section to list your 3 tasks to “seize the day”, as well as allies, threats, and more.

6. Trelloing

Is it officially a planner? No. Does it help me stay on top of to-do’s and track my tasks with start dates and due dates and everything? Absolutely.

View of my public Trello board for what I'm creating currently. You can see cards about my various creative endeavors, items on my to-do list, what's scheduled and launches, and what's one step completed of a bigger project.
This is my public Trello board for what I’m creating currently. You can set up Trello in a way that works for you, even if that looks different than what’s working for me 🙂

Plus, it’s free and user-friendly, available on web and mobile app, and lets you invite members to your boards to manage family or business team tasks all in one place together. So versatile and still simple. Try it out!

And bonus planners if ya just want more:

You can also try out these amazing looking planners that I’m digging:

  • The Practice Planner, a great tool for any artist looking to consistently work on their craft.
  • The Passion Planner, for structure and creativity all in one space
  • The All-in-One Planner, with a unique layout to see the weekly and monthly view at the same time
  • The Clever Fox Planner (affiliate link), with multiple versions to scale up or down as you see fit. This planner is built to build harmony in all the pieces of your life coming together in one clear place for you.

Tell me about your fav planners!

I’m always on the lookout for a new planner tool to geek out over. There are too many planners in the world to choose just one, am I right? So what’s your fav? What’s been working for you, or what are you excited to try out next year? Tell me in the comments, I wanna hear all about it 🙂

for the Creatives

When your old planner suddenly no longer works for you

This is an ode to yearly planners of all sorts.

There’s something to be said about consistency and routine that builds momentum toward your dreams, whether that’s dreams of keeping up with juggling all the appointments and a clean home and work tasks, or dreams of publishing a book, building a creative business, or [insert your dream here]. Trusty old planners and systems are comforting.

I’ve had plenty of things thru the years that have worked for me (and, things that fizzle out or bomb outright).

In terms of yearly planners, I’ve went from a daily planner, to a weekly planner, and I’ve always despised the monthly views. I’ve went from ones that I can carry here and everywhere, to ones that are ginormous and fill up my desk. I’ve tried mobile apps, and I’m still absolutely in love with Trello for task management. I adore discovering a good new planner, but haven’t yet found one that I buy _every_ year. Inevitably I find something different that will work for the next.

Someone recently said* that because our brains crave newness, sometimes something that previously worked no longer works, and finding a new system is exactly what’ll help. That’s a comfort to this person right here, who craves routine and consistency and follow-through, and freaks when something no longer works when it “should”.

The new planner tool I’m trying this next year

This new year, I’m so excited to be trying out this Makers Yearbook Planner. I’m geeking out over every last bit of it. Take a look at these pictures and just _try_ to not click the link above to buy one of your own.

If you’re looking for a small business to support as a belated Small Business Saturday (or ever) and this planner interests you, go get it!

I have systems that are working this year, but I’m excited for this detailed plan to take me along the next steps of the journey as I work to publish my paranormal circus novel. Every year I think “Ahh, this planner is _the_ planner I will use forever, it’s the best system for me.” This year is no different. I’m convinced I’ll shell out the cash every year into eternity to have this beauty.

Granted, every year so far after thinking that, I have switched it up later for something new and shiny. But now, I kinda know why, because science 😉

So besides this shiny new planner, where does this leave us?

While drafting this post I began geeking out over just about every planner I’ve fallen in love with ever, but I reeled it in here. So, be looking for that post next if you want to see more amazing new options 🙂 And share your favs in the comments below!

If you have a system and it’s no longer working, maybe try switching some piece of it up – buy a new planner, try Trello, move your workspace around, or whatever change is beckoning you. (And hey, if you don’t have a consistent routine and that’s not working for you, maybe try making one – after all, that would be switching it up.)

Overall, let’s not be afraid when our systems no longer work, and let’s remember it’s not indicative of our work ethic or commitment. We can stick with it, lean in, and see what happens. But we are also free to let it go with gratitude for where it’s brought us thus far, and step into something new for the next season.


*Btw, hey, on that vague “someone recently said” thing above, I don’t remember who said these wise words, and I can’t find it. There’s a whole bunch of old publications related to it when googling, but I heard it from an individual’s website, social media, etc. If you recently posted about it somewhere or know someone who did, please post below or message me as I’d love to give proper credit here!

for the Creatives

Nothing is wasted

I’m envisioning this post like a lighthouse. Only, this isn’t your typical lighthouse analogy. It’s not a lighthouse showcasing all the rocks you’re on the verge of crashing into and saying, “Wait, danger, you’re going the wrong way!” This isn’t that lighthouse analogy. It may be the same lighthouse, but look at it a different way with me today. Instead, think of it as the lighthouse beaming amidst the tumultuous waters, reminding you of the cozy shelter you’re heading towards. The lighthouse that beckons, “See, you’re on the right track. Keep moving along, you’re getting closer.”

If you feel like you’re stuck in the wrong place, or living the wrong life, or just 20 steps behind where you planned, treading water while reaching toward that elusive dream… (like, say, a dream of being a full-time author making a living off her writing, hypothetically speaking…)

Shes The Man GIF: "speaking as a completely objective third-party outsider with absolutely no personal interest in the matter"

(Note: the subtext in the movie this quote is from, and here, is the entire discussion is because there is a WHOLE BUNCH of personal interest in the matter))

I’ve been seeing reminders lately that nothing is wasted, and I thought I’d throw that reminder out to you, too. Nothing is wasted. Like a lighthouse or a floatie or at least a piece of driftwood, this is something for you to focus and grab onto amidst the waves. If your plan for your life is a little more zigzag than a straight line, let me tell ya: nothing is wasted.

I don’t mean this as some sort of “smile when bad things happen” mantra. Just because we land somewhere doesn’t mean we were meant to land there. But I take hope that I’m not necessarily derailed forever, that each intricacy is knitting together a life I’m pursuing.

You may be learning administrative or customer service or leadership skills that will translate to your own entrepreneurial endeavors one day. You may be learning what not to do. You may be taking the time you need to recover and rejuvenate to go full steam ahead next year. You may be passing on a legacy or a dream to those around you. Look closely at your past circumstances, at your present circumstances, and see what you can glean to move toward your dream better than before. If you look closely, you might see something to take with you on your journey. Or, you may not. I sure don’t sometimes. We don’t always get to see what’s happening until hindsight.

Emperor's New Groove GIF: Kronk says "By all accounts, it doesn't make sense," while showing a map where one party had no way of beating the other party to the location and somehow they did anyway

The more I look at the dreams of others around me slowly coming true, how all the detours and pieces of their lives come together into this moment…. It’s something that can be happening for me too, for you too. If you can’t yet see it for yourself, look at someone further along the journey than you. Sometimes we can see it in others before we can see it for ourselves. Whether you call it God or destiny or providence or purpose or… It’s conspiring for you as you dream. Keep dreaming, keep following that light, and sooner or later we’ll see the convergence.

Faith, for the Creatives

Being a Christian writing really nonchristian work

Though my faith is important to me, my work doesn’t fit into the rules of that genre. If you’ve read books from the Christian market, you probably picked up on that 😉 Sorry, but my murderous psychopath protagonist isn’t gonna go to church and convert.

And yet, if you stick around long enough, you may hear about my faith on my blog and social media. It doesn’t make sense for marketing or branding purposes, I know. But here’s a peek behind the curtain of why. (Note: it’s not some sort of cheesy “hide it under a bushel” answer either.)

The problem:

There’s this perception within pockets of Christianity that if your art isn’t explicitly Christian in theme – if you’re not painting pictures of Jesus or writing Scripture on your artwork, if you’re not singing worship songs or at least angsty churchy themes, if you’re not writing clean Christian-themed books that wrap everything up in a tidy Jesus-saves-the-day bow – then you’re not using your gifts for God.

What further perpetuates that mindset is that it’s hard to find Christians who are doing their art in the general marketplace, not because they’re not there, but because their websites understandably don’t scream “Christian alert!”. It’s arguably easy to connect with artists in the marketplace. And it’s relatively easy to find Christian artists making Christian art. However, it’s hard to find Christian artists in the secular market. Their faith is not their branding, so they’re inconspicuous.

A solution…?

Kiera Cass was one of the first writers I found who has nothing to do with the Christian market but still mentions her faith. Matt Tommey and Alex Marestaing have both spoken at Karitos Christian Arts Conference about believers working in the secular market instead of separating ourselves into this Christian bubble. And I recently finished a book by Marlita Hill about “represent[ing] the Kingdom while…making ‘that kind’ of art,” (that’s an affiliate link, I may receive a portion of sales through that link). The book is an encouraging and hopeful book for this weirdly taboo topic in Christian circles. One day, I want to be what those people have been to me, an example to some artist who wonders if they can create nonchristian work and still honor their faith and their God.

I’m still learning how my faith plays into my writing. What I do know is: There’s not the Christian Amy and the writer Amy. It’s not two separate Amys, two separate lives; all pieces of me are intermingled. My writing, and my faith, together. They play into each other, perhaps in subtle ways rather than overt. If you look really closely, you just might see my faith as you read about my murderous psychopath protagonist. And when you look at faith really closely, it may not tie into the way you envision a Jesus-saves-the-day bow. It doesn’t always look like a good story, but it could still be a good story.

Faith, for the Creatives

My experience in the Created to Thrive mentoring program

Nobody buys art because they need it. They buy it because of connection.

Matt Tommey of created to thrive mentoring

That is the basis of Matt Tommey’s marketing approach which I’ve been learning and applying since I joined the Created to Thrive mentoring program last September.

Created to Thrive mentoring program binder

Now this sounds like a sales pitch, so let’s back up. I am not an affiliate, nor offered anything, by telling you about this program. This post is for the curious, those who are wondering what I’ve stepped into and where I’m growing.

So how’d I get roped into Created to Thrive?

I already knew and learned so much from Matt Tommey’s work. This wasn’t some salespitch from a stranger. I’d been part of his Facebook group for years. I’d heard him speak at conferences. I recommended a couple of his books back in 2016. I took his free Artist’s Rise Up online class. I’d learned and grown as an artist countless times from his work.

There were a couple type of connections I was looking for last year:

  • More connections with artists that are further along in their business than me.
  • More connections with artists who are Christians working in the general marketplace.

This mentoring program offered an opportunity for community in both of those areas.


There’s lots of training out in the world to help me grow as a Christian artist.

There’s lots of training out in the world to help me grow in my artistic skill.

There’s lots of training out in the world to grow my business and marketing skills.

A short weekend training in any of those categories is normally what… a few hundred dollars at best, easily up to a thousand dollars…right?

Enter, the best deal ever.

All of those categories, wrapped into a yearly mentorship program, from a trusted professional I already glean from, for a price I’d normally pay for much less training.

What I’ve gleaned from the mentoring program so far.

Since I joined Created to Thrive, I’ve:

  • worked on better telling my creative story
  • revamped my website with SEO
  • found direction in growing as a Christian artist even though I’m not writing Christian books

And that’s just scratching the surface of the program. There are also opportunities for live Q&A, mastermind groups with other artists, and so much more. The program offers five modules full of training – cultivating your heart & mind, your art, your brand, your business, and your life – to remind me I’m a full person that needs some semblance of balance 😛

It came along when I didn’t expect it.

I say I was looking for training opportunities and for connection. But I should clarify, that was more passive waiting and praying for those opportunities to show up. I didn’t have a specific idea of how to get to there from where I was.

So if this blogpost just blindsided you with a new shiny idea you didn’t know you were looking for, don’t discard it right away.

If you’re looking for Christian artist community and training:

Look into the Created to Thrive mentoring program. Sign up for the free Artist’s Rise Up online class he is offering right now (the same one that got me hooked hehe). Try it out. Ask me questions. Count the cost of doing it, but also count the cost of not doing it.

This program offered all that I was looking for, which I’d originally thought would only be answered by about 20 new things on my plate. Instead I got 1 thing, a program that has so much training I can’t keep up, with growth opportunities for years to come.


Okay, now I’m curious: What training do you recommend for growing as an artist? How has it helped you along the way?

Interested in the Created to Thrive mentoring? Sound like a fit for you? Ask questions below, and maybe I’ll see ya in the group soon 🙂

for the Creatives

How I became a bookworm, an author, and generally obsessed with creative fashion

The start of struggling to read…

Last year I wrote about how my love of reading almost died as a kid. There was a time you probably would have thought I’d never become an avid bookworm. I couldn’t make the jump from short kid books to chapter books. Until I did.

The start of ignoring any sense of fashion…

Similarly, there was a time you wouldn’t have pegged me as an artistic fashion enthusiast. I would have told you I didn’t care about what I wore or how I looked. A clashing and frumpy and bland wardrobe. But let’s not relive those days. Moving onto later, now, when I actually have my own unique outlandish style.

The start of pushing down my writing interests…

Author of quirky, imaginative fiction. You may not have guessed that either. Sure, I wrote on the side all through childhood. Loved it. But for a good while I was adamant that I wouldn’t be an author, didn’t want to be. Instead, I wanted to study fiction, get my English Lit degree, not an English Writing degree. Until one day.


Looking back, my life started out in all these areas as things I outwardly said I didn’t want, didn’t care about, wasn’t interested in. While inwardly, I think a lot of it was actually doubt that I could do it up to my own or anyone else’s standards. So I gave up.

The turnaround…

The common strand in these stories is other people supporting me. My mom finding small books I’d be interested in. Friends to shop with that didn’t mind my outlandish creative fashion interests. Writers who saw the value of my stories and wanted more.

I learned that I didn’t have to live up to these hypothetical “other people’s standards” I was imagining. I hadn’t known there was another option. That I could carve out my own, and that I would find there were others in my corner who value the same stories, the same style, that I treasure.

And there wasn’t a timeline on it. Just an opportunity. I realized, if I really wanted it, I could do it. I could put the work in to create what I hoped for.

And now…

  • I like big books. I cannot lie 😛
  • I’m a published author of introspective psychological stories, studying my craft and coaching others wherever they’re at in the process.
  • I wear artistic fashion that brightens my day and those around me. It’s not what everyone else wears, but it’s unique and creative and interesting, and it’s me.
for the Creatives

4 steps to the creative process

  1. It starts with an idea. A spark. Inspiration. Like attending a creative arts conference or a lego art exhibit. That was my summer. 

  2. Then it’s about building in the routine. Not daily necessarily, just consistently. This year, I have a friend building her writing routine alongside me, you might remember her from the prior blogpost: Jenn. 

  3. And always, it’s about growth. Learning from those ahead of you. I want to use the gifts I’ve been given well – I don’t want to take the responsibility and the trust lightly. I always want to tell the best story I can and get it in front of those who will truly connect with it. 

    That’s why this year I’m investing in the Created to Thrive mentoring program of Matt Tommey’s. I’ll be studying and improving every week, and hopefully you’ll get to see it. 

And amidst all that, and amidst “regular life” stuff of chores and errands and dayjob and family and friends…there’s the 4th step: rest. When I really get going, that’s the piece that I can let go too easily. 

9 months. No, I don’t mean to birth a baby or a book. 9 months to recover from birthing a book. On October 23, “I Know You Like a Murder” will be 1 years old. A couple months of post-publication work, then the beginning of this year I was burnt out. I had no bookish goals for the year because I didn’t want to push myself again.

But I can now say it takes 9 months to bounce back and try to spend every waking moment working on writers life again. This time, I’m trying to build in rest better. Friends are helping me gauge when I’m slacking and when I’m resting. Next time I proceed more carefully, find rest throughout the process, and bounce back quicker.

What’s your best tip to building rest into your hectic life? Comment below and teach me your secrets. And which step of the creative process are you working on? 

for the Creatives

Find your own Jenn

Creators and Dreamers: 
Get you a friend as committed as you are. I say that lightly, but sincerely I know that’s not an easy thing to come by. But let me tell you: If you do, you become catalysts for each other.

Meet Jenn. I mean, she’s not here, but she’s usually in my living room about once a month as we frantically type away the day, mostly only stopping for a chitchat at lunch.

And now, she’s waking up early to get an hour of writing in before work every. single. workday. Y’all, she one-upped me!

But that’s okay, because I need someone to one-up me right now. I need that reminder of the hunger. Not that I lost it, just that it’s been laying low for a bit.

This month, I’m going to join Jenn some mornings, and we are gonna get things done. By the end of this month, I’ll have a routine more solidified and probably a selfie to share with you, so brace yourself. But until then…

Find your own Jenn. Someone with a similar goal and a similar drive. Whatever commitment level you’re at, get someone right there with you, and keep each other going. It’s powerful. 

It’s not easy to find a Jenn, so if you have one, treasure that! And, maybe tell me about your Jenn in the comments 🙂

for the Creatives

On taking creative risks

The end of last year I heard 3 sermons in a row, and from different speakers, about God rewarding risk (referencing the parable of the talents). It seemed like apt timing with me taking a risk and publishing a quirky meta short story. Niche in every sense. And nearly a year later, I regret nothing. I might have chosen different marketing avenues, but that’s about it.

More recently I’ve heard a teaching about God rewarding risk, from Alex Marestaing referencing when Jonathan said “Let’s go to the camp of those foreigners. Maybe the Lord will use us to defeat them” (1 Samuel 14:6, ESV). Key word “maybe.” Jonathan didn’t know. He took a risk.

One artist trope is that we have to quit our dayjob to build a successful artist career. That’s the only way we have adequate time to get our business off the ground…right? A few weeks ago I was reading “Originals” (affiliate link) about how nonconformists move the world, and studies actually show that businesses tend to be more successful when the entrepreneur kept their dayjob for awhile. (Read the book for exact details and figures and such.) Because the pressure was off, they could take the time to build something solid. Adam Grant, author of Originals, talked about how instead of taking a risk in every area of life, taking one great risk (like launching an artistic career) while playing it extra cautious in other areas to balance it all out. One great calculated risk.

Back to Alex Marestaing’s teaching. (I know, I’m all over the place, you love it 😛 ). I don’t remember the words he used, but he talked about how Jonathan didn’t know the outcome, but he knew God’s character, so it was a calculated risk.

Calculated risk. I like that. Because taking a risk sounds brave and daring and adventurous, but this little homebody wants to think through all the minute details and move ahead with caution. I like hearing that I can have both. But it still comes back to taking a risk. Artists still gotta jump at some point – or, more like at multiple points – in building their creative life.

This whole “risk” message coming back into my life right now, I’ll be honest, I don’t have a big booklaunch or a big anything in my plans. So what does the “big risk” messaging mean this time? I don’t know. But I’m making myself ready for when it shows itself.

Tell me: Are you more on the calculated side, or more of the risk taker? Which do you tend toward and which do you need to grow in today? Stepping out in risk, or taking a moment to calculate?

for the Creatives

The one thing that makes or breaks my marketing

Almost a year of selling “I Know You Like a Murder”. I’m no marketing expert by any means. But I googled and read books & articles and experimented. And thought I’d share the results so you can learn from them.

In my last post for patrons I gave my most successful marketing tactic. But there’s another strategy that makes those tactics possible in the first place, a strategy that I first learned from Ksenia Anske.

But first, let me tell you what marketing I tried, and I’ll also speculate as to why it helped or didn’t (although I could be off in my guesses):

  • Facebook/Twitter ads: I think for these to be successful, you have to actually know how to use them. Take a class or something. I tried a bit of money in both without learning how to use them first, so I got 0 sales.
  • Blog Tour: I hired a recommended successful blog tour company. Got hundreds of posts from book bloggers across the web. And got few sales. I think because my book was too niche, and it may have been more successful if it was a more widely read genre.
  • Book reviewers: I love book reviewers. Their service to the book community – readers and authors alike – is so appreciated and so valued. I sent books out (upon request, don’t just send them haphazardly) and received positive & negative reviews. Both positive and negative reviews are so important, because honest reviews are important. While I did not see tangible results, reviews in general are a book’s lifeline, so indirectly I am sure these pushed interested readers into buying readers (and let’s be honest, into non-buying readers if the book wasn’t for them, that’s important too. No one wants to waste time reading a book that isn’t for them.)
  • Book booths at area events: This has been one of my more successful, when I’m at the right place with the right people.
  • Preorders: Lots of posts about launch and lots of hype about finally publishing. This was very successful for a first-time author learning the ropes.
  • Book launch party: This was my most successful event so far. I sold in one day the same I’d sold through the entire preorder season.

But these aren’t strategies. These are just tools.

Can you spot the difference? What’s the difference between the items in that list that made the first half less successful than the last half?

You. Readers. Fans. Fans of my writing, or even just fans of my existence (I think they’d rather be called friends, but ya know…)

The book launch party was a success because of you. The crime scene tape idea came from one of you. Your fanart inspired and brought about the collectors cards.

Online preorders were a success because of you. Seriously, I calculated and most strangers’ purchases have come from your excitement. So what if the author is excited about their own work, I want to know if somebody else is, right? (I exaggerate, because an author’s excitement also sells btw.) Your attendance, your facebook likes, comments, shares, posts, your purchases – those drove sales more than any work I put in.

Your voice makes a difference to my creative career. So thank you. Thank you for celebrating with me and being with me in this journey.

In your creative pursuits, don’t discount the excitement of those around you. Count it a privilege and an honor, because not every artist gets that. And count it more valuable than anything you can purchase, because you can’t purchase enthusiasm and that’s what sells.

Sure, I learned a lot from studying Lady Gaga’s marketing (become a patron to read more about Lady Gaga marketing). But no matter what, remember it still all starts with you.